Earthquake Proof Your House
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Given the Rock n’ rollin’ weekend we just had last week we thought we would talk about Earthquake safety tips for your home. Living in Southern California we know that we will eventually have a large earthquake like the two Ridgecrest earthquakes that just happened last weekend. We must then be prepared. We of course need the basic necessities of water, food, clothing, first aid kit, and perhaps a makeshift temporary shelter like a tent and some sleeping bags, but what else can we do for our home?
Two Types of Shaking
While there are many types of shaking and wave fronts, we will keep it simple and only talk about the two main types of shaking that can affect your home. The uplift type of shaking means the ground goes up and down the lateral shaking moves the structure side by side. Here are a couple of examples.
A prime example of an uplift fault happened on January 17, 1994 in Northridge, California. This earthquake happened on what is called a Blind Thrust Fault, that caused extensive damage when it pushed buildings up off their foundations.
The Ridgecrest earthquakes are a prime example of a lateral fault also known as a strike-slip fault, because two pieces of earth slide past each other they cause a side to side shaking or as some people describe it, a rolling feeling. In case you’re wondering, the San Andreas fault is a strike-slip fault zone.
Check the Hyper links to Cal Tech and USGS for more informaiton about earthquakes and types of fault.
Thankfully we’ve come a long way since 1994 and many newer homes and public buildings are being built to withstand these types of motions from large earthquakes. What if you live in an older home or apartment building what can you do?
The best thing you can do of course is to retrofit the building or home to be able to withstand large earthquakes like the 7.1 we had in Ridgecrest or the 6.7 earthquake in Northridge. Especially keep in mind the older unreinforced masonry, unreinforced concrete foundations, and fireplaces. These will inevitably come down or break apart in a large earthquake, but a local structural engineer should be able to help you find the best solutions to retrofitting your home or apartment building.
These types of projects do take time and money, but they can give you the peace of mind that you and your family are more likely to survive the next big one. You can always try to do the retrofit in stages if you can’t afford to retrofit everything on your home at one time. (Check out our how to plan your remodel budget blog for money planning and savings tips.)
Also check out this article from this old house about seismic upgrades.
What can you do in the meantime? Or what can you do if you rent?
The number one injury during an earthquake is from objects falling off of shelves or out of cabinets and furniture moving around in the home. We need to secure these items if we want to avoid them potentially falling on top of us and injuring us or worse.
1) Secure your furniture. There are many affordable ways to secure your tall cabinets, dressers, TV’s, and refrigerators to the wall. You just need braces or straps that can be anchored from the object to the stud in the wall. Just make sure you actually anchor them to the stud and not just the drywall. Quake Hold is one of the best products out there for straps.
2) Upgrade your cabinet hardware. Install hook and eye hardware, latches on the outside of the cabinet doors that are either automatic or manual, push latches that mounts on the inside of the door, and child-proofing cabinets latches. Push Latches are probably the easiest and the best-looking ones since the mount on the inside of your cabinet.
3) Secure small objects. Those beautiful collectables you put on display can become deadly in an earthquake so make sure to use non-damaging adhesives or hook and loop them to the display unit they are sitting on. Again Quake Hold has a few different types of adhesives.
4) Anchor your pictures. Make sure to secure all pictures, mirrors, and glass. Anchor them to the wall with some type of screw hook and use an non-damaging adhesive on the bottom so they don’t bang against the wall during an earthquake. Even though it may look good to put a large picture over the bedframe this isn’t practical for earthquake purposes. After all you don’t want to end up in the picture or worse.
5) Window Safety. You can always purchase new windows and doors for your home that come with the laminated safety glass, but if you can’t afford it just yet you can buy the Anti-Shatter window film and install it yourself. What it does, should the glass window break during an earthquake, is keep the shards of glass from flying all over the place, therefore protecting you and your family from potential injury or worse.
6) Earthquake Kit. Of course, you already know you need this but here are a few tips. Make sure you store at least one-gallon of water per person per day. FEMA recommends preparing for at least three days, but our family aims for at least a week or two. Then of course you will need non-perishable food. We keep the extra food and water all together and then regularly rotate it so that we don’t waste food or water. First Aid kits are important we happen to have these ones from Amazon. I know many places are sold out right now in So Cal, but keep them ready and up to date. Keep some extra clothes and shoes in your kit just in case. You never know if you won’t be able to get to your clothing. Since we have a range of temperatures prepare for both hot and cold. Flashlights and radios, there are so many really cool gadgets on Amazon that would work really well in an emergency. Don’t forget extra batteries or even a solar generator. Temporary shelters such as tents will protect you from the elements as well. Then of course cash just in case our nice plastic cards don't work for awhile. And one thing that many people forget is toliet paper.
Of course, these are only a few suggestions. If you have any thoughts or suggestions to add to our list, let us know.
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